Minority High School Students Not Making The Grade, Study Shows

July 7, 2008 - 7:03 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Not enough minority students are graduating from high school, according to a new report, and that is prompting one African-American education group to call for changes in the education system, including smaller class sizes and better instruction.

The study, conducted by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research and the Black Alliance for Educational Options, shows that barely half of African-American and Latino children are graduating from our nation's high schools.

Dr. Jay P. Greene, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, said the newly released research is an important way to highlight and correct problems that exist in high schools across the country. Greene authored the study and specializes in education policy.

He noted that his research shows fewer minority students are graduating from high school, even when compared with other studies. But, said Greene, his research does not include the number of students who received a GED or other high school equivalency certificate.

An earlier study conducted by the National Center for Education Services (NCES) did include GED recipients in its analysis, and that may partly explain the different conclusions reached by NCES and Greene.

"GED recipients aren't really graduates of the public high school system," Greene said. "They are graduates of some other system. If we want to know how the public high school system is doing, we can't include students who receive degrees from other systems," Greene explained.

"I think what the report allows us to do is have a clear set of facts about how students are doing, how different ethnic groups are doing and how students are doing in different places in the country," Greene said of his study.

His report shows that the national graduation rate for the class of 1998 was 74%. For white students, the rate was 78%, while it was 56% for African-American students and 54% for Latino students.

"The difference is enormous. There is more than a 20% gap in graduation rate between minority and white students," Greene said.

The Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), an organization that is trying to expand educational options for African-Americans, co-sponsored the study. "The fact that so many kids are not completing high school with that diploma is alarming," said Kaleem Caire, president and CEO of BAEO.

"It is clear to us that if the government sponsors these schools...and they can't cut it, then we should be opening up and looking at other opportunities and providing parents and children with other means to acquire an education," Caire said.

"Some people will say that we need to re-think high school education in America. I think that we have to move beyond just talking about that and start doing it. I think high schools are far too large, I think children get lost in them. A lot of the failure rate can be attributed to the poor education that children receive or their poor performance," Caire said.

Caire attributes much of the failure of minority students to "passive-optimism." He said passive optimism happens when minority youth start out with high goals but stop well short of their goals because they have no access to the "ways and means to navigate the system."

The National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers' union, would not comment on the study released by the Manhattan Institute and BAEO. It did, however, make available a press release indicating what it considers necessary to increasing the effectiveness of public schools.

The press release touches briefly on the issue of minority education opportunities:
"NEA calls for smarter testing that provides multiple indicators and measures of performance. Accountability standards for performance on tests must also provide accurate, meaningful information.

"NEA supports disaggregating test scores to ensure that minorities' and poor kids' needs are highlighted so they can get the help they need."

Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, is among those expressing concern about the results of the study. Boehner is the primary author of President Bush's proposed education bill.

"America is not a land of equal educational opportunity for economically-disadvantaged students, and these findings show us the consequences," Boehner said.

He said children who do not earn a high school diploma, much less a college degree, will have a much more difficult time achieving the American Dream.

"Fundamental changes are needed in our public education system to increase accountability and give new options to parents with children in schools that refuse to change," Boehner added.

Boehner is among those who support school vouchers, in which students from failing schools can use tax dollars to pay for private or parochial school tuition.